It's easy to forget that even the most universally acclaimed, hyper-influential artists can be lost on some. In spring 1967, Pink Floyd were in the middle of recording their debut album, Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, when they appeared on the BBC’s arts programme The Look Of The Week, presented by Hans Keller, on 14 May. The band performed a brief snippet of Pow R. Toc H., before blasting through Astronomy Domine. After the performance, Roger Waters and Syd Barrett sat down for a chat with their host, Mr Keller, who was less than impressed.
Keller was a prominent music critic specialising in classical, opera, and 20th Century classical composers, who’d come to the UK from Austria to escape the Anschluss. He’d studied the violin and played with Oskar Adler, a contemporary and friend of the influential composer Arnold Schoenberg. Keller’s interests extended beyond music to psychoanalysis, and he brought a cerebral approach to music criticism.
But he was not a Floyd fan. “Perhaps I am a little bit too much of a musician to fully appreciate them,” says Keller, landing his first verbal jab in his introduction. “Perhaps it’s my fault that I don’t appreciate them,” he declares in a tone that suggests it’s very much not his fault at all.
He opens the interview by asking Waters, “Why has it all got to be so terribly loud?”, adding “I just can’t bear it.” To their credit, Waters and Barrett remain unruffled throughout the cross-examination. Keller’s dismissiveness aside, the interview occurred at a pivotal moment in British rock history, as Floyd led the way in the transition from playing in dancehalls, with an eye on keeping people dancing, to staging dedicated concerts where the performance itself was the focus. Two days before their TV appearance, they’d held their trendsetting Games For May concert at the Royal Festival Hall, which introduced fans to the delights of live Quadrophonic sound.
Keller’s psychoanalytic influence asserts itself as he wraps the segment by comparing Floyd’s music to shock treatment, before airily concluding that their approach represents a regression to childhood. Small mercy they didn’t perform Mathilda Mother instead, or Keller’s Freudian instincts would have gone into overdrive.
Watch the infamous interview below.